Keeping Whiteman rolling with a turn of the wrench

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Firefighter trucks rolling, police cars patrolling, forklifts lifting - all thanks to the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron's vehicle maintenance unit.

The vehicle maintenance unit plays a significant role in the Whiteman mission ensuring all vehicles continue to operate.

"Without the vehicle maintenance unit, vehicles wouldn't be repaired, preventing road access, emergencies and any other mission essential services, to include vehicles transporting weapons to load the B-2 Spirit," said Airman 1st Class Cody Smith, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance journeyman. "It's our job to maintain vehicles to keep the base going."

To ensure quality maintenance is provided to the vehicles, the vehicle maintenance unit is divided into two bays categorized as high bay and low bay.

Low bay repairs general purpose vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, trucks and Bearcats. High bay repairs large construction vehicles such as forklifts, dump trucks, diesel engines, snow equipment and lawnmowers.

There are four variables that lead to vehicle breakdowns, according to Staff Sgt. Kyle Bemis, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance craftsman.

One variable is human error.

"Human error is very common," Bemis said. "A lot of times, people don't inspect vehicles before driving; sometimes they will find a small problem that will gradually get worse, causing bigger problems."

Another variable is the winter season.

"Winter can cause numerous vehicle breakdowns and mishaps due to corrosion, dead battery, and snow related issues," Smith said. "Salt and water can cause a vehicle's frame to corrode and rust. To prevent this, rinsing the bottom of a vehicle or applying corrosion coating is encouraged. Dead batteries result from frigid air preventing the vehicle from starting."

The other variables are age and vehicle usage.

"Depending on how old the vehicle is and how often it's used, problems can occur very often," Bemis said. "An old vehicle isn't going to last as long as a new vehicle because it's been used a lot and endured more harsh weather conditions."

In addition, depending on what a vehicle is used for could determine how many times it returns to the shop. For example, a vehicle used to push snow is going to break more often than a vehicle used for driving.

To repair some of the larger vehicles, the vehicle maintenance unit relies on original manufacturers, local vendors and junkyards to have the parts in stock. If something needs repair, they will seek the original manufacturers to repair the broken part. If the original manufacturer is out of business, they will try to get the part from a local vendor or a junkyard.

"Occasionally, we use the state line junkyard to find parts that aren't easily found," Bemis said. "Because there is a huge demand for dodge bobtails, they are on back order. We need them as quickly as possible."

There is no set time limit on when vehicles will be repaired because the vehicle maintenance unit has to wait on parts to arrive.

"We are constantly waiting on somebody to send parts," Bemis said. "We have to find out what's wrong with the vehicle and order the parts. We are waiting on someone to order the parts from someone else. If they don't have it, they have to order from another source; and it eventually becomes a long process."

Despite the long hours and wait times for parts, the Airmen take pride in their job and ensuring the mission keeps moving.

"Hard work, dedication and teamwork are the tools we use to get the job done," Smith said. "We do what we can and work hard every day, because without us, Whiteman can't roll."